Mara was walking home from Amy’s house through the park. When she started out, the sun was shining and she could hear birds singing. Somewhere there were wind chimes playing a new melody as the breeze blew. It lifted strands of Mara’s hair and threw them into her face.

A gust of wind blew past and the leaves shook and whispered. The world went grayer and Mara looked up. Dark clouds were moving quickly across the sky.   Where had they come from? Mara shivered. She wished she’d brought a coat.

The wind blew through even stronger. Mara kept tucking her flying hair behind her ears. The wind chimes clanged an urgent tune. She couldn’t hear the birds any more. Mara started to walk a little faster. As she left the park, she felt the first raindrop.

And then, it poured. It rained so hard that Mara couldn’t see clearly. She was still two streets away from home. She hurried a little faster, rushing through a blurry world that she couldn’t really see, continually blinking the water out of her eyes.   Left turn and then right turn.   She should be almost home.

As suddenly as it began to pour, the rain gentled. Mara looked around. She had no idea where she was. She’d never been on this street before. She would remember that stump carved to look like a bear if she’d ever seen it before. Or that dark purple house.

Mara stopped walking and looked around again. She was cold and wet and it was still raining and she had no idea where she was. She turned around and tried to walk back the way she came. Nothing looked familiar. Should she knock on the door of one of those houses? She wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers. Besides, it looked like no one was home.

There were no lights on in the houses, even though it was overcast and rainy.   There weren’t cars in the driveways.   Was she alone in the world? Did the rain take everyone away and leave her behind? Her eyes stung and she blinked away the tears. Her nose started to run and she wiped it on the back of her sleeve. She’d change out of this shirt as soon as she got home anyways.

Mara began to slow down. Would walking around help when she was lost and alone? Shouldn’t she wait for someone to come find her? But would they know where to look? She shivered and rubbed her hands together.

The bushes in front of her rustled and a black cat stepped out. It looked at her than tilted its head to the side.   Then it turned, and tail up, it walked down the sidewalk a few steps and stopped.

The cat turned and looked at her. “Meow?” it said.

“Am I supposed to follow you?” Mara asked.

The cat turned and walked a few more steps and turned and looked at Mara again. She took a step forward and it turned and started walking. This time it didn’t stop. Mara followed it. She didn’t have any better ideas.

The cat turned and walked down a path between two houses. Mara hadn’t seen it until they’d turned off the sidewalk.   It was bordered on either side by chain link walls that fenced in the yards on either side. Some sort of leafy vine wove in and out of the fence, making them seem more like hedges. Mara looked close and could see morning glory blossoms, closed tightly against the dark and rain.

The cat continued walking forward, without pausing or looking right or left.   The rain stopped and the sun came out.   Mara started to feel a little warmer.   And then they turned a corner and she knew where she was. If she turned the next corner, she’d be able to see her house.

She sprinted forward and then paused and turned. She needed to thank the cat. But, the cat was gone. She looked around, turning in a circle. She couldn’t see it anywhere. “Thank you for helping me,” she said anyways. Then she turned and ran home.